Growing up, I used to think meditation involved monks, gongs and a lot of chanting. I was sorta right. My paternal Grandma – who I endearingly call “Ah Ma” – inspired spirituality in me since I was a little kid. She’d light incense, close her eyes and sit in silence. To be quite honest, this would freak me out because I thought she was either dead or napping. So, as any little squirt would do, I either tiptoed up to her and held my finger close to her nostrils to make sure she was breathing or I would throw something at her, then run – she had a strong aim and could smack me with her slipper that rotated like a boomerang.
Through her example, I too would mediate, as a teenager and an adult. As life got more complicated, I would turn to this practice, this moment of silence and stillness, to focus and keep me grounded. To this day, I turn inward in this special space to listen to my breath, which keeps me centered and clears my mind.
Recently, I was invited by Mallika Chopra, founder of Intent.com, to participate in a unique experience: group meditation and Yoga in San Francisco’s bustling Union Square. The event, appropriately named “Seren-i-tea in the Square,” was co-hosted by Mallika and Stephanie Snyder, a well-known Yoga instructor.
More than 100 people showed up with yoga mats in tow. Included in this crowd were the winners of GIG’s first contest. We asked GIGsters to tell us what inspires them, and then we randomly selected 8 to receive a VIP pass to “Seren-i-tea in the Square.”
The following are the 8 winners with their responses (note: some comments were shortened/edited):
Adriana G. – “The positive energy of children inspires me. When I want to give up or something seems frustrating, I think about how we are born with this ability to keep trying until we succeed. We wouldn’t get anywhere if we never tried to learn how to walk or ride a bike or learn to read. That desire fuels a baby to learn how to crawl or stand, and to keep on trying even after the many falls… I think sometimes we forget that we have that desire within us and it takes a child to remind us of that power we have always had within.”
JoAnne L. – “Love inspires me. Acts that expand the heart, open the mind, turn fear into faith, and judgment into compassion and understanding. Loving ourselves allows us to authentically love others…as a joyful humanity that awakens individuals to BE In Spirit with one another.”
Kim Y. – “Family & friends inspire me. They make each day worth living and encourage me to lead a good life and to never stop growing.”
Long P. – “Badminton inspires me to coach – almost 10 years at Wilcox High School. There’s so much to learn from the sport and to gain for myself and students. There’s always a new experience each season, and a new way to be inspired!”
Melissa A. – “Having the privilege to work with ‘at-risk’ youth and watching them flourish despite the incomprehensible hurdles they must overcome.”
Phuong H. – “My high school students and fellow teachers from South Central LA inspire me to teach…They are resilient and have taught me a lot about perseverance. My seniors will be the first to either graduate high school or attend college. The teachers are agents of change. They don’t come to work for a paycheck; they invest in the kids and work hard to give the students all the tools they need to be successful in life.”
Sharon B. – “The resiliency of my students inspires me to move forward with the work of changing an institution that continues to give our students of color, most especially our African-American and Latino students, an education that places them in the peripheries of many people’s minds. Their abilities to persist, grow, and succeed in the face of stereotypes and low expectations inspire me and move me to act.”
Susie S. – “What inspires me is someone going against all odds- someone following through when the cards are stacked against them. Fighting for what’s right, no matter what the cost is. Sometimes you have to lose to win! Someone who has the insight to see the big picture and hang in there. Someone who has hope to believe when no one else will.”
Thank you to all of our viewers/readers for your inspired participation and for being present. Thanks to Mallika and her Intent.com team for reminding us to love ourselves and our community – this inspires us to be serene, to be aware and to set our intentions.
I meditate regularly, practice yoga and try to operate in the space of consciousness, but this was a unique experience because there was a sense of power when people converge – a feeling words can’t paint – an effervescent vibrational energy of a collective consciousness and overflowing goodness. Apparently, more than 150 people joined in on this event, and more than 500 virtually participated. My one word summation of this special event: Powerful!
One of the most memorable parts of the group meditation (there were so many) was when Mallika asked us to close our eyes, focus on our breath, to set our intention. She asked us to let these questions flow through you: “Who am I?” and “How am I serving?” This resonated with me as I focused inward to think about what I am doing with my life, my skills, my time to serve the community and others. That’s exactly what my team and I set out to do through storytelling and our Go Inspire Go project. What are your intentions? How are you serving? How are you using your power to help others?